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:: Sunday, November 21, 2004 ::

:: See Lance Ride ::
Trying to go into the business of making commercials, there are always a few I can think of at any given moment that I like. But there's one that I've been watching over and over again that is, is my opinion, is one of the best sports commercials out there. It's Nike's "See Lance Ride" spot.

The opening, an aerial shot over the Northern California surf and flying in on Lance, is epic and yet, intimate. The enormity of his accomplishments over the last six years is obvious. But just as prominent are the sacrifices he made fighting his personal battles and the isolation that followed.

No voice over. No explanation. Just the pounding surf, and the only soundtrack are some simple chords picked on a guitar and some subtle humming woman's voice. There are no lyrics, and it embodies his journey: quiet, yet intense, unwavering. You're drawn in.

Then he's speeding alongside a train. There's a flock of geese flying in formation with him as the lead, a gang of Hell's Angels riding with him mimicking his support team, and a group of cancer kids rushing to the hospital window for a mere glimpse. You see a herd of buffalo stampeding across the plains, kids chasing him through the rain, fireflies and bats guiding him through a tunnel, a pack of city cyclists through the hills of San Francisco, all following his lead eager to share his journey. Finally, a little boy wearing a football helmet riding a BMX, straining to catch up with Armstrong.

My first viewing of this spot gave me goosebumps and... I admit, it got my eyes a little watery.

You slowly realize that this isn't just about a multiple Tour de France winner. It's about the connection between him and his influence on the things that surround him. It works both ways, really. The old man on the train watches him with a quiet serenity. When Armstrong raises his fist, it's both to inspire the kids to keep fighting as well as a gesture of gratitude for sharing his journey. There are more kids leaving the shelter of a tunnel to brave the weather hoping to somehow extend their few moments with greatness. The enthusiasm of his fellow cyclists in San Francisco, none of who will ever win even one title, yet they use him as motivation to pursue their passion for no other reason than their love of cycling. Their drive and fervor in turn feeds him.

My favorite part: in the final moments, when the boy in the helmet rides up, when you see the shot of his front wheel pulling up to Armstrong’s bike, you wonder whether the hero is pulling the kid or the kid is pushing the hero.

Armstrong's battles with cancer is there, as well his personal battles and sacrifices – the way he's inspired others to stay strong in their own battles, and the way those stories fuel him through the pain of hard climbs and long hauls on the course.

I'm not a cyclist, I never wore those yellow bracelets, and for that matter, I don't own anything Nike. I've never suffered through any life-threatening illness and the most debilitating sports injury I've had is a sprained knee. But like Lance Armstrong, I'm just another guy living a life with numerous peaks and valleys. And like anyone, when I'm in a valley I look to something... anything... to give me a lift. A sign, a rope, an outstretched hand to pull me out of the miry clay. Anything that can elevate me so I can get ensconced in a peak before the bottom falls out yet again.

And in many ways, this commercial does that for me. I know I'm gushing and some of you might think I'm just a sucker for a promotion of capitalism disguised as art. Yeah, you see that ubiquitous "swoosh" at the end but it's not about that. It's an inspiration as much as it's a firm kick in the ass. And the reason it works for me is it doesn’t make me want to buy anything. It makes me want to do... something. Anything. Go for a run. Read a novel. Work on concepts till my ears bleed. Take steps to become a better man. Or maybe I'm in one of my moments where I need some inspiration.

I've been watching this spot a lot lately.

:: Miscellaneous Ramblings by Dan-E at 6:47 PM [+] :: | 0 comments

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